While the U.S. presidential candidates both suggest an
increase in military forces as the solution for the conflict in Afghanistan,
allies and even the U.S. defense secretary have agreed that a political
solution involving engaging in diplomacy with the Taliban is necessary.
Britain�s most senior military commander in Afghanistan,
Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith this week said �We�re not going to win this war.
It�s about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that�s not a
strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army.�
�We may well leave with there still being a low but steady
ebb of rural insurgency,� he also said.
�I don�t think we should expect that when we go there won�t
be roaming bands of armed men in this part of the world. That would be
unrealistic and probably incredible.�
In addition, he said, �We want to change the nature of the
debate from one where disputes are settled through the barrel of the gun to one
where it is done through negotiations.�
�If the Taliban were prepared to sit on the other side of
the table and talk about a political settlement, then that�s precisely the sort
of progress that concludes insurgencies like this. That shouldn�t make people
In response, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, �While
we face significant challenges in Afghanistan there certainly is no reason to
be defeatist or to underestimate the opportunity to be successful in the long
He said �We continue to see the need for additional forces
in Afghanistan. I want to make sure that everybody understands that the
increase in US forces are not seen as replacements for NATO contributions, but
He agreed that dealing with the Taliban was part of the
solution, saying, �What is important is detaching those who are reconcilable
and who are willing to be part of the future of the country from those who are
�Part of the solution is strengthening the Afghan security
forces, part of the solution is reconciliation with people who are willing to
work with the Afghan.�
The British ambassador to Afghanistan, according to a leaked
French diplomatic cable, has suggested that the U.S.-led NATO military campaign
against the Taliban is part of the problem, not the solution.
The British envoy, Sherard Cowper-Coles, was quoted by the
deputy French ambassador in the cable as saying, �The current situation is bad,
the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption, and the government
has lost all trust.�
�The presence of the coalition, in particular its military
presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution.�
He added, �Foreign forces are the lifeline of a regime that
would rapidly collapse without them. As such, they slow down and complicate a
possible emergence from the crisis.�
The British envoy also suggested, reports the New York
Times, that �the only �realistic� way to unite Afghanistan would be for it to
be �governed by an acceptable dictator,� the cable said, adding, �We should
think of preparing our public opinion� for such an outcome.�
Both U.S. presidential candidates have vowed to increase the
military presence in Afghanistan. �It is the American presidential candidates,�
the envoy said, �who must be dissuaded from getting further bogged down in
Republican candidate John McCain has touted the U.S. �surge�
in Iraq as a �success� and said that he wants to implement a similar policy in
Afghanistan. Democratic hopeful Barack Obama has said he is open to engaging in
diplomacy with official �enemies� while McCain has rejected the very notion,
preferring to tout his �surge� idea as the military strategy for victory.
The Afghan government itself, however, has reportedly sought
talks with the Taliban to find a negotiated settlement to the ongoing conflict
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, according to a CNN report
earlier this week, hosted talks between the government of Afghan President
Hamid Karzai and representatives of the Taliban on September 24 and 27. Saudi
Arabia was one of the Taliban�s principle benefactors prior to the terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001.
A presidential spokesman acknowledged, �The government of
Afghanistan is open to speaking with anyone in the opposition and the people
who are fighting against the Afghan people and the Afghan government,� but
added, �But no such talks have happened, as of yet.�
A Taliban spokesman rejected the idea and the group denies
any talks occurred. The Taliban says it refuses to deal with a �puppet� regime.
Before such talks could be held, the group has said, U.S. and other foreign
forces must be withdrawn.
In other Afghanistan news, the country began registering
voters Monday for the scheduled election next year.
Jeremy R. Hammond is the owner, editor, and
principle writer for Foreign
Policy Journal, a website
dedicated to providing news, critical analysis, and commentary on U.S. foreign
policy, particularly with regard to the �war on terrorism� and events in the
Middle East, from outside of the standard framework offered by government
officials and the mainstream corporate media. He has also written for numerous
other online publications. You can contact him here.